For as long as I can remember, I carried so many of the world’s burdens on my shoulders. I worried about gas prices, nuke attacks, and the stupid things the men in my life did. I worried that I was ugly and couldn’t wear stylish clothes because they didn’t come in size “triple-Z.” I felt the need to share these maladies with anyone who would listen. Slowly, my circle of friends diminished, as did my circle of mere acquaintances. The lightbulb finally came on one day when I found myself listening to the words coming out of my mouth. Complaint-after-complaint was my entire repertoire. Holy moly. No wonder I found myself alone. I thought to myself, “This girl has got to find a better way!”

I was new to the OA program and spent have enriched my life.” much of my time reading the Big Book and working my first Steps with sponsor who was strong and strict, yet loving. But the program had not sunk in. My brain had not yet grasped the Principles, and I continued to complain. Then I started receiving messages at meetings and from my sponsor that, just maybe, if I could find one thing I was grateful for, I might see a flicker of “program light.” I couldn’t think of anything . . . not one thing.

My sponsor asked me to respond truthfully to a few questions. I agreed. Her first question was, “Did you wake up this morning?”

I smiled and said “Yes.”

“Where were you sleeping?” she asked.

“In my bed,” I answered.

“Did you have breakfast?” she continued.

“Yes,” I responded, and began to giggle.

“Did you wake up and have breakfast inside a structure?” she asked.

“Yes, I did!” I answered in a slightly louder voice, laughing.

“Well, then,” she said, “Do you think everyone living on the south side woke up today, woke up in a bed inside a building, and got to eat breakfast?”

I answered, “No,” very solemnly. “I don’t think everyone did.”

“How does that make you feel about your morning?” she asked.

In a low voice, I answered, “Darn lucky . . . and grateful.”

I smiled as I realized my sponsor had just showed me the beginning of my gratitude list. Being grateful for the most basic things in my life, things I took for granted, became the first building blocks of what has become an entire wall of gratitude. I’ve expanded my daily list to include: people, my job, my car, the green lights on my way to work, and the phone calls that come just as I reach for food when I’m stressed; the program Tools that help keep fear, anger, and resentment at bay; and the fact that I can connect with my Higher Power, from whom I can draw strength, courage, and wisdom, anytime and anywhere. I could go on and on.

My life has changed dramatically. I no longer feel the need to complain about the small stuff, or even some of the big stuff. I simply say the Serenity Prayer and turn over all the stuff to my Higher Power. At night, I check my gratitude list, where my recovery is at the top.

— Liz B., Chicago, Illinois USA

For Discussion and Journaling: In “Gratitude Building”, a sponsor prompts a sponsee to become mindful of positive aspects of life that are so easy to take for granted. Get together with other OA members and challenge each other to list the most mundane aspects in life for which we can express gratitude. What are the feelings that come as a result of this exercise?

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